Why is Italy afraid of online poker shared liquidity? By Valérie Peano, Attorney-at-Law, EGLA – European Gambling Lawyers & Advisors April 10, 2019 at 2:45 am At the end of January 2019, the online poker regulatory authorities of France, Portugal, and Spain released a public statement on the implementation of the agreement concerning online poker liquidity sharing that they signed on 6th July 2017. The fourth signatory to that agreement was the gambling authority of Italy. The purpose of the agreement between the four authorities was specifically to share the liquidity volume in online poker in order to render it (again) attractive and maintain, at the same time, high standards of protection and public enforcement. While Italy has not yet given execution of this agreement, France, Portugal, and Spain expressed their general satisfaction on the evolution of this new online shared ecosystem. According to the public statement: “In terms of player’s acceptance, since the implementation of the Agreement, participating in shared liquidity tables or tournaments rather than national ones has been the most prominent option among poker players from France, Portugal and Spain. As a result, the online poker market of France, Portugal and Spain has improved its performance since the implementation of the Agreement, yielding positive figures in each of them.” Italy was among the first promoters of this agreement, whose formal execution took place in Rome. Italy’s online poker gross gaming yield has been dramatically decreasing since its launch in 2011, now reaching a minimal share among the gambling segments in Italy – less than 1%. However, following a Parliamentary question in October 2017, addressed to the previous Italian Government, concerns of money laundering have been raised. Although the Ministry of Finance never responded to this Parliamentary question, all evidence indicates that it has silently frozen the remote poker shared liquidity among different jurisdictions. But why is Italy afraid of online poker shared liquidity? Are not money laundering risks lower at a poker table in which many more people, coming from different countries, are less likely to know each other? And shouldn’t that be especially true in countries where the anti-money-laundering measures and obligations are similar, being governed by the same European directives? Interestingly, the public statement of the three online poker authorities of France, Spain and Portugal provides a clear response to the Italian parliamentary question: “until now, there has not been remarkable incidents in implementing a shared liquidity environment in any of the jurisdictions involved. This suggests that it is possible to implement a shared liquidity ecosystem among jurisdictions with an equivalent level of protection, with the result of enhancing consumer experience without compromising their integrity.” With no doubt, this statement is an indirect, gentle response to the diplomatic incident caused by the Italian Government freezing with regard to the shared poker liquidity project. It also indicates that the signatory’s authorities are open to working with European Union or European Economic Area counterparts that may have an interest in signing on to this cooperation agreement. Let’s recall that the Nordic countries have already implemented a shared liquidity environment. Wisely, Switzerland – where remote gambling law entered into force on the 1st January 2019 – already covers the possibility of implementing a shared liquidity environment with other jurisdictions. The trend to cooperate in implementing a shared poker liquidity is historically already in place! Why isn’t Italy participating?